If you got an air fryer over the holidays, you're in luck.
What if we told you there was a machine that could fry foods into light and crispy perfection with little to no oil? Meet the air fryer. This cult-worthy countertop appliance cooks by circulating hot air around French fries, chicken wings, veggies, and more at a high speed, turning out crisp results with significantly less fat than what’s used when cooking with a deep fryer. (In case you missed it, we're big fans of the maillard reaction.)
Technically air fryers are mini convection ovens, though they work in a fraction of the time it would take your conventional oven and without heating up the whole house.
Whether you found your new fryer under the Christmas tree or bit the bullet and bought one to kick your healthy cooking up a notch in 2020, you're in luck. With the turn of a dial, this trendy tool can fry up everything from bite-sized appetizers to weeknight mains in minutes—with all of the flavor and none of the guilt. Just brush up on these pointers before you begin.
How to maximize your model
When it comes to user-friendly appliances, it doesn’t get much better. Most air fryer models have a drawer that pulls out that holds a metal basket inside. Just toss your food with a tablespoon or two of oil, place in the basket, then set the temperature dial and the timer to cook. And be sure to follow these simple steps to get the best results:
- Don’t overcrowd the fryer basket. In fact, the results are best when you arrange foods in a single layer if possible—this ensures a light and crispy, non-soggy exterior.
- Start air frying your food within a few minutes of tossing in the oil.
- Gently shaking smaller ingredients in the fryer basket halfway through cooking (or every five to 10 minutes) will help prevent them from frying unevenly and will enhance their crispy texture.
- When converting a recipe for something roasted or baked into an air fryer-friendly recipe, lower the temperature by 25°F but keep the cooking time the same.
- Pre-packaged frozen foods don’t need additional oil before being air fried.
- Because most air fryer models have a basket with a nonstick coating, avoid scraping the surface with metal utensils to preserve the finish.
- Maintain caution when preparing highly greasy foods (like sausages) in the air fryer, as excessive fat dripping into the pan can cause smoking.
- It’s OK to pull the basket out at any time throughout the cooking cycle to check on the progress—most models will automatically shut off while it’s out and resume when the basket is placed back in. If food isn’t sufficiently fried when the timer goes off, just set the timer for a few extra minutes and continue cooking.
- Always set the basket, pan, and any accessories on a heat-resistant surface when frying is complete and maintain caution, as these tools get very hot during the cooking process.
- When air frying larger or delicate foods, use tongs to lift them out of the fryer basket. Otherwise, you can turn the food out directly into a serving bowl or plate.
- Once food is removed, the air fryer is ready for another batch. But if you’ve been prepping fatty ingredients and excess oil has collected in the bottom of the basket, carefully pour it out after each batch.
- You can also use your air fryer to reheat foods. Place in the basket and set the temperature to 300°F for up to 10 minutes.
The best air fryers
Philips Air Fryer: The Phillips fryer is decked out with bells and whistles, like preset programs (for making frozen fries, meat, fish and drumsticks), an LED-lit digital display, and a keep warm function that works for up to 30 minutes. It also comes with a splatter proof lid, recipe booklet, and it works with a compatible Philips Airfryer app that has over 200 recipes.
Black + Decker Purifry: This air fryer touts dual convection fans, knobs for setting cook time and temperature, and two indicator lights to show when the device is on and when it's preheated. Available in black or white.
Ninja Foodi: This one combines two of the biggest appliance trends, air frying and pressure cooking. It's basically an air fryer and an Instant Pot combined: you can pressure cook dishes like soup and chili, and air fry wings, fries, and more with very minimal oil. Or you can combine the two functions to get food that’s perfect tender on the inside and crisp on the outside, like Brussels sprouts or chicken thighs.
Cleaning your air fryer
Follow these easy instructions to keep your air fryer looking and smelling like new. But first, be sure that the appliance is off, unplugged, and cool.
Cleaning the Fryer Basket and Pan: Fill with hot water and add a few drops of dish soap and allow the pan with basket inside to soak for ten minutes. Wipe the basket walls and bottom with a moist cloth or non-abrasive sponge; allow to air dry before putting back into the device.
Washing the Exterior: Clean the outside of the air fryer with a moist cloth, as well as the walls of the interior cavity that hold the fryer basket. If necessary, food residues stuck to the heating element inside may be removed with a non-abrasive sponge or soft bristle brush and wipe dry with paper towel. Avoid steel wool or hard bristles, as these tools can damage the coating on the heating element.